Grave Matters

Funeral Director Anthony Guarino of Thornwood, owner of the Yannantuono Funeral Home in Mount Vernon and the Yorktown Funeral Home in Yorktown

So, how many black suits do you own?
Actually, none. I always wear a suit for work, but it’s a dark blue or gray—still conservative but a little more contemporary.

What was the biggest funeral you’ve arranged?
It was for a soldier in his early twenties who died in action in Afghanistan. Around fifteen hundred people came throughout the wake and more than three hundred attended the service, including service people of all ages and many people who did not know him. They all just wanted to pay their respects and give their condolences to the family.

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And the smallest?
One man arranged a funeral for his eighty-five-year-old mother and no one came besides him—they lived together and were both somewhat reclusive. So our staff, including all the pallbearers, stood with him throughout the wake, the mass, and at the cemetery, so he wouldn’t be alone.

How has working in this field impacted you personally?
It definitely puts things into perspective.

Is it all gloom and doom?
No. Now, as people are living longer than before, it’s more a celebration of their lives. For instance, we now can scan photographs of the deceased onto a DVD and show it on flat-screen TVs so family and friends can gather around and reminisce.

What casket options do you make available?
We have eighteen in our showroom, ranging from a twenty-gauge steel casket for one thousand, seven hundred ninety five dollars to a cast-bronze one with a velvet interior for eleven thousand dollars. We also have nine urns, from one hundred fifty dollars to three hundred ninety-five, for those choosing cremation.

What kind of casket are you planning to use for yourself?
My preference would be a wood casket—either a cherry one that sells for five thousand eight hundred dollars or a mahogany one that costs six thousand nine hundred.

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Have you made arrangements for your own funeral?
I’ve purchased a family plot in Mount Calvary Cemetery near a good friend of mine who passed away young. And my wife knows I’d like a traditional Catholic funeral with a one-day wake and a religious service at our church.

What trends regarding funerals have you noticed over the course of your career?
The number of pre-arrangements or ‘pre-need’ has increased dramatically. Older folks want to make it easier for their family and thus take care of the financial burden and all the decision-making.

In what ways have technological advances influenced today’s funeral practices?
We now offer a web simulcast of the service so people who can’t get here can watch it in real time on their computer. We also post obituaries on our website, and people can leave comments to express their condolences.

What have people requested be buried with them?
I’ve seen anything from a golf putter or fishing rod to a can of beer and package of cigarettes.

How many boxes of tissues do you go through in an average year?
Close to six hundred. We buy them by the case. 

photo by John Rizzo

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